Some well-known people who have died recently
- Michele Amas, 1961-2016
Prominent Wellington actress and poet
- E. R. Braithwaite, 1912-2016
Guyanese-born United States novelist, writer, teacher and diplomat
- Carrie Fisher, 1956-2016
American actress, writer, producer and humorist best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars film series
- Zsa Zsa Gabor, 1917-2016
Hungarian-American actress and socialite
- John Glenn, 1921-2016
American aviator, engineer, astronaut and senator
- George Michael, 1963-2016
English singer, songwriter and record producer who rose to fame as a member of Wham!
- Russell Oberlin, 1928-2016
American countertenor who became a leading light in the early music movement
- Debbie Reynolds, 1932-2016
American actress, singer, businesswoman, film historian and humanitarian
- Patricia Robins, 1921-2016
Romantic novelist and former wartime ‘Filter Room’ girl who also wrote historical fiction under the pseudonym Claire Lorrimer
D’you know what arrived at the library the other day? Brand new copies of Stacy Gregg‘s twenty-first pony book, that’s what! If there’s a horse-mad tweenage kid in your life, guaranteed, this is the perfect summer read. It’s exciting, gripping, full of exotic animals and horses (of course) , and – according to Miss Missy – it’s Stacy Gregg’s best ever book. Miss Missy’s got to be one of Stacy’s biggest fans, so I reckon she knows what she’s talking about.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on a copy of The Diamond Horse recently, and we both thoroughly enjoyed this story of two Russian girls linked across time by their love of horses and a mystical diamond necklace. Anna Orlov is the daughter of a Russian Count, but all the beautiful dresses, exotic pets, and royal banquets don’t make up for the fact that her father ignores and belittles her, and her brother bullies her relentlessly. Valentina is an orphan who rides a beautiful pink horse in a Russian Circus act, and dreams of a better life for herself and her beloved horse.
I loved the way Stacy mixed history and modern legend into this tale of two feisty girls who refused to let anyone crush their dreams. The story of Anna is inspired by the real Anna Orlov, whose father developed the Orlov Trotter horse breed, and was a courtier of Catherine the Great. The story of Valentina and her horse, Sasha, is inspired by the true story of Balagur, a modern day Orlov Trotter, who surprised the dressage world by winning competition after competition, all the way up to the Olympics. I also loved the descriptions of the snow-covered Russian landscape, which were so realistic I felt like I needed to wrap up in a blanket to keep warm.
Miss Missy said that she enjoyed learning about the origins of Orlov Trotters (of course, she knows the name of every breed of horse known to man, so the name Orlov rang a bell for her, while going completely over my head). She also enjoyed the family dynamics, which, she told me, is not the sort of thing Stacy Gregg usually writes about. I asked Miss Missy what one word she would use to describe this book; she said “Exquisite” and I can’t think of a better one!
The Diamond Horse
by Stacy Gregg
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
What were you reading when all the events of 2016 took place? Looking back on my reading year, here’s what brought me a bit of comfort in those weird and wonderful times:
Brexit – well I never saw that one coming. The book on hand was Britt-Marie Was Here – another winner from Fredrik Backman, the author of the sensationally successful A Man Called Ove. This novel is set in small town Sweden (still a member of the EU by the way), so a bit of a geographic link there.
The election build-up in America – would it never end? I got through a whole heap of reads like The Portable Veblen. Nothing like an American novel on squirrels and dysfunctional families to get one through the voting road show.
Leonard Cohen died. I took solace in a murder mystery The Lewis Man by Peter May. All grey skies and peaty remains and the odd bird on a wire. Perfect.
Trump got elected – I was on holiday in Cape Town and indulging in a very South African read The Satanic Mechanic by Sally Andrew. One of those Alexander McCall Smith type reads – with recipes thrown into the mix as well. I just buried my head in the sand, something like the ostriches in the book.
When the Kaikoura quakes hit, I was still on holiday. It was a weird feeling to be so far away from New Zealand at that time. I’d moved on to a short, whimsical read that I picked up in an independent bookstore – The Reader on the 6.27. Translated from the French, this is an enchanting novel about the love of books and reading. It served me very well at that time.
John Key resigned while I was reading The Muse. This is a great novel to immerse yourself in by the author who wrote The Miniaturist. I preferred this second book (and the first was not bad at all either). If you are an art lover and would like a change of scene to Spain, this should go onto your list.
Finally what was I reading at the end of the year? One of those crumbling mansion, upstairs downstairs, governess novels – The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan. And dipping in to the silliest book I found all year Knit Your own Moustache. No I am not making this up!
How about you? What books sustained you last year? What books are carrying you gently into 2017?